Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sex, Puberty and All That Stuff: A Guide to Growing Up




Bailey, J. (2004). Sex, Puberty and All That Stuff: A Guide to Growing Up. London: Franklin Watts.

Summary:
This book covers a lot of information on sex and puberty for boys and girls. It discusses all of the topics typical to books like this, such as sex organs and genitals, acne, birth control, pregnancy, peer pressure, and dating. It also discusses topics which other books might not tackle, such as penis size, lopsided breasts, homosexuality, and masturbation. Nicknames or slang terms are also included for genitals and sex organs. Questions such as, "Is it true you can't buy condoms until you're 16?" or whether you "can't use a tampon if you're a virgin" are explained in the book. The back of the book contains contact information for various services such as Advocates for Youth, adoption agencies, pro-choice resources, and gay and lesbian services. The images and diagrams in the book are all cartoons. There is a glossary at the back of the book, which defines all of the terms covered within the book.

Review:
It's been awhile since I've read a book on sex and puberty intended for young people, and boy is this one different than the one I had. At times I was almost shocked by some of the things included in this book, such as the slang terms for genitals. But then I realized that there are some young people who may of only heard of these body parts in slang terms and it is important for them to know their technical names. I felt like this book was more conversational and less clinical than the book I had when I was younger. I think that aspect of it will appeal to tweens. I also like that it is intended for both boys and girls. This book is very forward thinking, it included questions or facts that tweens might be curious about that they may learn about from friends or older siblings, but too embarrassed to ask. I think that this book would be a little mature for younger tweens, even though puberty can begin in young tweens.

Genre:
nonfiction

Reading Level:
Ages 10 - 15

Subjects/Themes:
puberty, sex

Annotation:
This book contains many of the sex and puberty questions you have, but are too embarrassed to ask.

A Wolf at the Door and Other Retold Fairy Tales



Datlow, E. & Windling, T. (eds). (2000). A Wolf at the Door and Other Retold Fairy Tales. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Summary:
Some of the world's most favorite fairy tales are retold in this collection of stories by various popular authors. Award winning authors like Neil Gaiman and Gregory Maguire create new stories out of old fairy tales. In the retelling of Hansel and Gretel, instead of a gingerbread house, the witch lures them in with video games and in the retelling of Cinderella, she wears a slipper made of twigs, not glass. Some of these classic fairy tales are retold from a modern perspective, and some are told from an entirely different perspective, such as Jack and the Beanstalk as told by Mrs. Giant or Snow White being discussed from the dwarfs' perspective after she has left with the prince.

Review:
I really loved reading Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire. Many of the fairy tales in this collection are like that, but meant for tweens. Gregory Maguire even contributes a tale about Snow White to the book. I was immediately drawn into the stories, reminding me that no one is ever too old for a good fairy tale. It does add interest to have a new spin on them. Some of the tales are a little edgier or more modern, which will definitely appeal to some tweens, others keep the original tone of the old fairy tales, but add new elements to them. I especially loved the retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. It was beautiful and eerie, it made me want to read the original to see how much was kept in this new version. I think these stories might have the same effect on the tweens who read them.

Genre:
nonfiction

Reading Level:
Ages 8 - 17

Subjects/Themes:
fairy tales

Annotation:
A compilation of retold fairy tales by award winning fantasy authors.

In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson



Lord, B.B. (1984). In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson. New York, NY: Harper Row & Publishers, Inc.

Plot Summary:
The book is set in the year 1947. After hearing word from her father in America, Bandit and her mother must leave their family in China and travel to New York to join him. Upon leaving Chungking, her family gives her an American name of her choosing; she becomes Shirley Temple Wong. Shirley and her mother finally arrive to their tiny one room apartment in Brooklyn after a long journey. Shirley begins school and her mother adjusts to life without servants and with washing machines. It takes Shirley a few months to adjust to life, customs, and the English language. She is lonely at first, without any friends. She accidentally interrupts a stickball game one day after school and receives two black eyes from a bully named Mabel. After not squealing on Mabel, the stickball players befriend Shirley and teach her the game. Shirley takes to it immediately, becoming obsessed with baseball, specifically the Brooklyn Dodgers and Jackie Robinson. For the rest of the season, she doesn’t stray far from the radio when a game is being played. By the end of the year of the boar, Shirley has adjusted well to life in Brooklyn, but also realized the importance of maintaining her original language and customs.

Review:
I love the organization of this book, spread over a year, beginning in China. The author shows the progression of Shirley’s year of transformation from being well versed in Chinese customs, to struggling with English and American customs, to submersing herself in only American customs, and finally finding a balance between her Chinese culture and new life in America. I love that the main character is a girl, who is obsessed with baseball. Shirley’s obsession with the sport is fantastic; it adds a lot of humor to the book. There is a great explanation of why baseball is an America’s favorite pastime and there is a lot of symbolism in Shirley’s embracing of this. I like that the events in the book were drawn from the author’s own life and coming to America. Through Shirley’s experiences she shows the hardships and loneliness of children coming to a new country and learning a new language and all new customs.

Genre:
historical fiction

Reading Level:
Ages 9 – 12

Subjects/Themes:
immigration, self-identity

Award Information:
ALA Notable Children's Book
School Library Journal Best Book

Character Names/Descriptions:
Shirley Temple Wong (Bandit, Sixth Cousin): 10 years old; travels from China to New York with her mother to join her father; loves baseball and Jackie Robinson
Father: Shirley’s father; gets an Engineering job in New York and moves his wife and daughter from China to join him; takes on the job of landlord of their building
Mother: Shirley’s mother; moves from China to New York with her daughter, Shirley, to join her husband; becomes pregnant
Mabel: largest 5th grade girl in Shirley’s class; gives Shirley two black eyes, then becomes her friend; plays stickball; teaches Shirley all about baseball
Mrs. Rappaport: Shirley’s 5th grade teacher
Emily Levy: new girl in Shirley’s class; becomes one of Shirley’s good friends
Jackie Robinson: baseball player for the Brooklyn Dodgers; hero of Shirley’s

Annotation:
It is 1947, the year of the boar, and the year Shirley Temple Wong leaves her home in China and moves to Brooklyn, New York. Shirley learns English and American customs, falls in love with baseball, and tries to hold on to her Chinese heritage.

The 39 Clues: The Maze of Bones



Riordan, R. (2008). The 39 Clues: The Maze of Bones. New York, NY: Scholastic, Inc.

Plot Summary:
Amy and Dan Cahill’s parents died long ago, they were left in the care of their great aunt, but loved dearly by the Grandmother, Grace Cahill. When Grace Cahill dies, an incredibly wealthy woman, family members from far and wide come to attend her wedding and to find what they have inherited. Through a video shown by her lawyer, Grace tells the family members that they can either take a million dollars each, or forfeit the money to participate in a challenge, which could make them extremely powerful. Amy and Dan choose to take the challenge along with a few other family members. They are informed that the Cahills are a very powerful family, producing the likes of Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln. Each participant is given a clue they must solve, the first of 39. The clue initially stumps the two, but with a little encouragement from their grandmother’s lawyer, they are off and running. The challenge has Amy and Dan traveling all over with their sassy au pair and narrowly escaping traps set against them by their own competing family members.

Review:
This was an exciting book, reminding me at times a little of The Westing Game and a little of The Da Vinci Code. I could see kids really getting into these books, especially because of the size of the series. After beginning the book and realizing, there was not really going to be an end to the book and only one clue would be solved, I was a little annoyed thinking I would have to read 38 more books to discover the final outcome of the series, but it looks like there are only 11 total in the first series. I have heard this series described as a marketing ploy, which is hard not to see with game instructions on the back of the book for kids to play. The whole back cover of the book is an advertisement for the 39 Clues game kids can play by collecting playing cards (which come with the book) and entering to win over $100,000 in prizes. This irked me. I would rather kids be interested in books because they enjoy them, not because there is a prize involved. It was a fun and quick book to read, I think they could have done without the gimmick.

Genre:
fiction, mystery, adventure

Reading Level:
Ages 9 – 14

Subjects/Themes:
loss, siblings, treasure hunt

Series Information:
first book of the first series

Character Names/Descriptions:
Amy Cahill: 14 years old; sister to Dan; parents mysteriously died when she was young; her grandmother died leaving a challenge for Amy and Dan and other family members to take; part of a very powerful family; likes to read; has a stutter
Dan Cahill: 11 years old; brother to Amy; parents mysteriously died when she was young; her grandmother died leaving a challenge for Amy and Dan and other family members to take; part of a very powerful family; likes numbers; has a great memory
Grace Cahill: grandmother to Amy and Dan; very wealthy and powerful woman; in her will she challenged her family members to take part in a game that could make them very powerful; has a cat named Saladin
William McIntyre: Grace Cahill’s lawyer; helps Amy and Dan with the challenge
Ian and Natalie Kabra: cousins of Dan and Amy; also take part in the challenge; are evil
The Holt family: relatives to Dan and Amy; also take part in the challenge; are all athletic; aren’t afraid to use brut force to stop their cousins
Alistair Oh: relative of Dan and Amy; Korean; takes part in the challenge; tries to form an alliance with Dan and Amy, but eventually betrays them
Irina Spasky: relative of Dan and Amy; Russian; former spy; takes part in the challenge; uses sneaky methods to try to stop the other participants of the game

Annotation:
Upon the death of the grandmother, Dan and Amy Cahill are invited to participate in a game where they could become very powerful.

Out of the Dust



Hesse, K. (1997). Out of the Dust. New York, NY: Scholastic, Inc.

Plot Summary:
Billie Jo lives with her mom and dad in the panhandle of Oklahoma. The book begins in the winter of 1934, Billie Jo is 14 years old and after years of trying, her mother is finally pregnant again. Her family struggles to survive in the dust bowl where dust storms are ruining her father’s wheat crops. It is her mother’s piano and Billie Jo’s crazy style of playing which bring her the most joy in life. An accident of a pail of kerosene set by the fire by her father, mistaken to be water by her mother and thrown on the fire, and then hurriedly tossed outside by Billie Jo dousing her mother with it instead, turn the Kelby family’s life upside down. Her mother, covered in burns dies in childbirth, taking Billie Jo’s baby brother with her. Billie Jo’s hands were severely burned and she can no longer play the piano. Her relationship with her father is strained, each dealing with their own guilt and blame for the accident. Billie Jo, predicting the way her unhappy life is going in Oklahoma, hops a train west, only to be returned home by a government agency in Arizona. Her running away begins Billie Jo and her father communicating and begins to mend their little family.

Review:
The style in which this book was written was uniquely beautiful. It was a devastating book, with a glimmer of hope at the end, which I’ve found is similar most award winning tween books. I loved the setting for the book, having never read a book set in the dust bowl. The book provided a glimpse of the hard life people who lived in the dust bowl during the depression had to face. Billie Jo is a likable character, spunky and non-conforming to girls her age at that time. I loved reading about her crazy piano playing and was crushed when she could play no longer. As mentioned earlier, this is a really devastating book, but it shows how family is able to overcome incredibly difficult obstacles.

Genre:
historical fiction

Reading Level:
Ages 9 – 14

Subjects/Themes:
dust bowl, loss

Awards:
Newbery Medal Award Winner
ALA Best Book for Young Adults
A Publishers Weekly Book of the Year

Character Names/Descriptions:
Billie Jo Kelby: 14 year-old girl; lives in the panhandle of Oklahoma with her pregnant mom and dad; loves to play the piano; accidently burned her mother
Pol Kelby (Ma): Billie Jo’s mom; pregnant; died in childbirth after being burned over most of her body; played the piano
Bayard Kelby (Daddy): Billie Jo’s dad; a farmer
Arley Wanderdale: teaches music at Billie Jo’s school; invites her to play with he and his band at the Palace Theatre
Mad Dog Craddock: friend of Billie Jo’s; has a great voice; sings in the same shows where she plays the piano; she has a crush on him

Annotation:
Life in the dust bowl during the depression was hard, but after a terrible accident in her family, life becomes almost unbearable for Billie Jo Kelby.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Book Trailer #2: Belle Prater's Boy

video

The Spiderwick Chronicles: Book 1, The Field Guide




DiTerlizzi, T. & Black, H. The Spiderwick Chronicles: Book 1, The Field Guide. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Plot Summary:
After their parent's recent divorce the Grace children, Mallory, Jared, and Simon, all move with their mom from their apartment in New York to a decrepit Victorian house belonging to their great-aunt, Lucinda. The Grace children immediately sense that there is more to this house than they can see. The scratching noise in the walls prompt them to break open part of the wall where they find an interesting little nest full of newspaper clippings and cockroaches strung up on a string. Mallory destroys the nest, thinking whatever it was that was making it will have to leave. But, destroying its home only makes this little creature angry and strikes vengeance on the Grace children. A note Jared finds in a secret room in the house leads him to discover Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You and the children learn that there is a lot more to this house and their world than they had ever realized.

Review:
This is a wonderfully imaginative book. It is rather short and a quick read, good for younger tweens. Plus, it's a series that leaves the reader with a great hook at the end of the first book, which will inspire young readers to pick up the next book in the series. The illustrations are awesome and add a lot to the book. The Grace children each have their own unique interests, and bond together in their quest to discover what is scurrying around in their house. The authors show the struggle of kids from a recently divorced family, as they are forced to leave the comfort of their home and make major changes in their lives. I look forward to reading more of the Grace children's adventures.

Genre:
fantasy

Reading Level:
Ages 7 - 12

Subjects/Themes:
divorce, siblings, faeries
Series Information:
Book 1 of The Spiderwick Chronicles

Character Names/Descriptions:
Jared Grace: 9 years-old; twins with Simon; brother to Mallory; parents recently divorce; he is having some trouble with his parent's divorce; he finds the Field Guide
Simon Grace: 9 years-old; twins with Jared; brother to Mallory; obsessed with animals; has creatures in jars all over the room he shares with Jared
Mallory Grace: 13 years-old; sister to Simon and Jared; loves fencing; destroys the nest in the wall; has her hair tied to her bed while she sleeps
Arthur Spiderwick: the father to Lucinda, the Grace children's great-aunt; made the Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You Jared finds
Lucinda Spiderwick: the Grace children's great-aunt; is in a home after going crazy talking about faeries; the Grace children go to live in her old Victorian home

Annotation:
After moving to a old Victorian home, the Grace children begin to feel that they are not alone in their new home. The discovery of a peculiar nest in the wall and an interesting book open their eyes to things beyond their imagination.

Babymouse: Cupcake Tycoon




Holm, J.L. & Holm, M. (2010). Babymouse: Cupcake Tycoon. New York, NY: Random House Children's Books.

Plot Summary:
Letting her imagination run rampant in her school library, Babymouse imagines she is on an adventure, scaling a wall to find the lost cupcake. It is only when she falls off of the book shelf and breaks the sprinkler pipe on her way down that Babymouse comes out of her daydream. The school decides to hold a fundraiser to pay for the water damage in the library. Babymouse hates fundraisers, but this one involves selling cupcakes, her favorite! Determined to receive the mysterious grand prize for selling the most cupcakes, Babymouse gets to work. It seems that everyone has already either bought a cupcake from one of her classmates, or they're not interested. Determined to win that prize (instead of focusing on the money she will raise to repair the damage to the library) Babymouse comes up with plan after plan to outsell her classmates. It is in a dream that she finally realizes the plan that will win her the grand prize, a cupcake stand.

Review:
This is a really fun little graphic novel. Babymouse is a hilariously self-obsessed imaginative young mouse, full of mischief. She gets herself into funny situations through her bouts of daydreaming. The narrator is equally funny, with wise quips which knock Babymouse down from her self-absorbed tirades. This is the first Babymouse graphic novel I have read, but I'm sure they are all equally funny and quick little reads. These would be a great way to introduce young tweens into graphic novels, I think a lot of girls would enjoy reading about Babymouse and her adventures. The illustrations are a little harried, which works well with Babymouse's character and adventures.

Genre:
graphic novel

Reading Level:
Ages 8 - 12

Subjects/Themes:
fundraisers

Series Information:
This is book 13 of the Babymouse series

Character Names/Descriptions:
Babymouse: imaginative girl mouse; accident prone
Narrator: adds witty and sarcastic commentary to the story

Annotation:
After Babymouse wrecks her school library during a particularly dramatic daydream, she struggles to raise money to repair the damage by selling cupcakes.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Amandine




Griffin, A. (2001). Amandine. New York, NY: Hyperion Books for Children.

Plot Summary:
Delia’s family had just moved and she was having some trouble meeting new friends, not that making friends was anything Delia was ever good at. After receiving some pressure from her parents, Delia makes Amandine, a strange girl who waits for her ride after school at the same place as Delia. Her friendship with Amandine is troubled from the start. She sends Delia grotesque drawings from her Ugliest Thing notebook and together they create scripts they act out, Amandine doing impressions of people they know. Delia isn’t exactly sure how she feels about Amandine, she has a lot of fun with her, but the fun seems bad and she is never sure what Amandine is going to do next. When Amandine acts really horribly towards their friend Mary and blames Delia for it, Delia decides she has had enough of Amandine. She refuses to hang out with her anymore, but unfortunately Amandine is not done yet with Delia. Amandine has dirt on Delia she is willing to let slip to their school if Delia doesn’t reconcile their friendship. Eventually, a lie is told, and Delia and her family are forced to take drastic measures to make their family “normal” again.

Review:
This book is definitely for older tweens. Amandine and Delia are both 14 years-old, but I think it would be a beneficial book to girls who are just entering middle school. There seems to be a phase girls go through around middle school where low self-esteem has a tendency to make some of them almost mean and create unhealthy friendships. I definitely went through it and saw other girls my age do the same. It's a rough age where you leave the comfort of your elementary school and move to a bigger school with more students. It is at this time when kids either cling onto or shed their existing friendships for cooler or more like minded friends. It can be a pretty brutal time in a girl's life, speaking from experience. Girls Amandine and Delia's age are often still trying to figure out who they are and what image they want to project, they are also dealing with becoming more empathetic and a growing awareness of right and wrong. It's a tough age, which the author captured well in this book.

Genre:
Fiction

Reading Level:
Ages 12 - 15

Subjects/Themes:
friendship, self-identity, lying

Character Names/Descriptions:
Delia Blaine (Delilah): 14 year-old girl; switched schools midyear; overweight; has a hard time making friends; becomes good friends with Amandine; steals things
Amandine Elroy-Bell: 14 year-old girl; becomes good friends with Delia; comes from family of artists; likes to sketch disturbing images for her Ugliest Thing notebook; has a mean streak; lies to get back at Delia for ending their frienship
Mary Whitecomb: friend of Amandine and Delia's; Amandine draws a gruesome depiction of Mary after Mary makes her angry; preacher's daughter; lives in the country; becomes Delia's only friend
Mrs. Gogglio: older neighbor who gives Delia a ride home from school everyday; is a nurse at a senior home; seems to be the only person who really listens to Delia; calls Delia "Delilah"

Annotation:
Desperate for a friend, Delia befriends Amandine even though she never feels quite comfortable in the friendship. When Amandine shows her true colors, Delia's family has to take drastic measures to escape the chaos Amandine caused.

Monday, April 18, 2011

iCarly




Schneider, D. (Writer), & Hoefer, S. (Director). (2007). iPilot (Television series episode). D. Schneider (Producer), iCarly. Los Angeles, CA: Nickelodeon on Sunset.

Schneider, D. (Writer), & Hoefer, S. (Director). (2007). iPilot (Television series episode). D. Schneider (Producer), iLike Jake. Los Angeles, CA: Nickelodeon on Sunset.

Plot Summary:

iCarly is a television show on Nickelodeon starring Miranda Cosgrove as Carly. Carly and her friend Sam host a weekly web show called “iCarly.” Carly’s neighbor, Freddie, who has a crush on her, does all of the technical work for the show. Carly lives with her older brother, an artist, in his loft apartment. In the two episodes I watched, the pilot and another episode of the first season, Carly deals with things like crushes on boys and getting in trouble at school. Her friend Sam has a quick wit and borders on being a bully at times. The web show concept came about in the pilot episode when a video of Sam and Carly talking trash about their teacher. The video went viral, people thought they were entertaining, so they made up their own show. The second episode was about a cute boy at school Carly puts on her show.

Review:

I think it’s great to have a show that deals with modern technology and how kids can get involved with it. Both episodes I watched were pretty silly and there were negative actions without any real consequences, which I thought wasn’t so great. I also felt that Sam’s sense of humor is a little mean spirited and could even be construed as bullyish. Other than that, it’s great to have a show about motivated and creative tweens. I loved the clothing and the sets, the show is really bright and colorful. I would think that mostly girls would be interested in this show. There is a male character, who is pretty funny, but in the episodes I saw, he was not a character I could boys looking up to, but perhaps some could identify with him.

Genre:

Television show

Age Level:

The show was originally rated TV-Y7 (children 7 and older), but is now rated TV-G (general audience).

Subjects/Themes:

Internet, guardian, friendship

Character Names/Descriptions:

Carly Shay: tween girl; best friends with Sam and Freddie; father is away in the Air Force; her older brother, Spencer, is her guardian; hosts an online show with her friends Sam and Freddie

Sam: tween girl; Carly’s best friend; funny; helps host online show with Carly

Freddie: tween boy; neighbor and best friend to Carly; has a crush on Carly; provides technical support for Carly’s show

Spencer: Carly’s 26 year-old brother; is Carly’s guardian; an artist

Annotation:

Carly and her friends, Sam and Freddie, host a web show called iCarly and deal with typical adolescent issues.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Surviving the Applewhites


Tolan, S.S. (2002). Surviving the Applewhites. New York, NY: Scholastic, Inc.

Plot Summary:
After being thrown out of every school in Rhode Island and his parents landing in jail, Jake Semple is sent to live with his grandfather in North Carolina. But, even with a new start, Jake hasn’t changed at all and gets kicked out of school again. An interesting possibility presents itself though, and Jake is invited to attend the Creative Academy, a school run by the Applewhite family for their children. Zedediah Applewhite, a woodworker, has two sons, Randolph, a theatre director, and Archie, also a woodworker. Archie is married to Lucille, a poet, and Randolph is marred to Sybil, a popular author. Randolph and Sybil have four children: Hal, a sculptor, Cordelia, a dancer who is composing and staring in her own ballet, and Destiny and E.D. E.D. is Jake’s age and is the only Applewhite not okay with Jake attending their school. She is also the only one who actually develops and follows a set curriculum for herself, therefore the family thinks it best to initially pair Jake with her for his education. Out of work, Randolph takes on a job as director of the upcoming production of Sound of Music at the local small theatre in town. His behavior manages to alienate his entire crew, leading to them leave the production. Randolph urges the other Applewhite's to take up the jobs of the crew and pitch in to help, but the manager of the theatre has had enough of Randolph, his rainbow production, and his crazy antics, and decides to cancel the performance. The Applewhite's kick into high gear and show that they, as well as the journalist and Lucille's guru who have also taken up residence at the Applewhite compound, can all work together to put on this production.
Review:
This book is hilarious. It has so much going on, I was not bored for a minute. It has a nice happy ending with Jake and E.D. having a sense of pride and belonging in their roles in the musical. It’s also neat to see this self-absorbed bickering family come together in the name of art to produce something truly unique. There is a good balance of obvious humor, with the dog and Destiny harassing Jake, and good moral to the story of Jake losing his rebellious ways after discovering something he’s good at that give him joy. This book will definitely appeal to both boys and girls.

Genre:
Fiction

Reading Level:
Ages 9 - 12

Subjects/Themes:
homeschooling, creative arts, family

Award Information:
Newbery Honor Book 2003
Character Names/Descriptions:
Edith Applewhite (E.D.): daughter of Randolph and Sybil; the only Applewhite not particularly artistic; very detail oriented and organized; develops her own curriculum for her home schooling
Jake Semple: taken in by the Applewhite's; kicked out of every school in Rhode Island; parents are in jail
Destiny Applewhite: four year-old brother of E.D.; likes to follow around after Jake; asks a lot of questions
Cordelia Applewhite: E.D.'s older sister; starring in and composing a one-woman ballet
Hal Applewhite: E.D.'s reclusive older brother; changes his artistic focus periodically; currently a sculpter
Zedediah Applewhite: father of Archie and Randolph; grandfather to E.D., Hal, Cordelia, and Destiny
Randolph Applewhite: son of Zedediah; married to Sybil; father of E.D., Hal, Cordelia, and Destiny; theater director
Sybil Jameson (Debbie Applewhite): wife of Randolph; mother of E.D., Hal, Cordelia, and Destiny; famous author
Archie Applewhite: son of Zedediah; married to Lucille; woodworker; tattooed
Lucille Applewhite: married to Archie; poet; the one who invited Jake to join the Creative Academy
Jeremy Bernstein: journalist who moves in with the Applewhite's to document their artistic endeavors

Annotation:
A troubled tween finds joy in an unlikely place as he attends an artistic family's creative academy.

The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook


Davis, E. (2009). The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook. New York, NY: Bloomsbury U.S.A. Children's Books

Plot Summary:
Julian is new to Mosburg Jr. High and he is determined to not let his ultra nerdiness be known to the other students. He doesn't want a repeat of his being an outcast at his last school. But, he can't hold back his incredible knowledge for long and when he accidentally lets a bit of aeronautical engineering slip in his class, he receives an invitation written in secret code. The invitation was to meet Ben and Greta, fellow aspiring inventors who ask Julian to join them in their secret hideout and invention workshop. Together, the three of them become the Secret Science Alliance (SSA) and create inventions such as a fog gun, curfew counteractor, pneumatic rollerblades, and the Kablovsky Copter, named after their idol, scientist Professor Andro Kablovsky. When Dr. Wilhelm Stringer, head inventor and CEO of Industrail Innovations Incorporated steals the SSA's invention notebook and the SSA goes to get it back, they find that Dr. Stringer has plans to steal a priceless artifact from the Mosburg History Museum. It is up to the SSA to foil his evil plan.

Review:
This graphic novel is fantastic. The story is clever and hilarious and the graphics are incredible. The layout of this graphic novel is similar to the adult graphic novels I have read, with a unique layout different from most comics. The book is filled with great diagrams, which provide the reader with a lot to look at and definitely adds interest to the book. Each page is filled with tons of details and descriptions, the reader will have a great time discovering all of these details. The inventions created are imaginative and wonderfully illustrated. I like the added touch of showing the sketches of the inventions shared on paper airplanes or the Hidden-Message-Passer-Pencil. The Secret Science Alliance is a quirky group made up of a nerd, a notorious troublemaker, and a sports jock.

Genre:
graphic novel

Reading Level:
Ages 9 - 12

Subjects/Themes:
adventure, inventions, self-identity

Character Names/Descriptions:
Julian Calendar: new student to Mosburg Jr. High; inventor; member of the Secret Science Alliance
Greta Hughes: student at Mosburg Jr. High; notorious troublemaker; inventor; member of the Secret Science Alliance
Ben Garza: student at Mosburg Jr. High; good at sports; inventor; member of the Secret Science Alliance
Dr. Wilhelm Stringer: famous inventor; constructs evil plot to steal Andro Kablovsky's hat
Professor Andro Kablovsky: famous inventor who lived from 1854 - 1942; idol of the Secret Science Alliance

Annotation:
Three junior high students form the Secret Science Alliance through their love for designing and building inventions. When their design notebook is stolen, they find another inventor's evil plan. It is up to the SSA to stop him.

Belle Prater's Boy




White, R. (1996). Belle Prater's Boy. Canada: Harper Collins Canada Ltd.

Plot Summary:

One morning Belle Prater disappeared. She left behind an alcoholic husband and their cross-eyed son, Woodrow. After it was clear Belle wasn’t coming back any time soon, Woodrow went to live with his grandparents in Coal Valley, VA. Next door to his grandparents live Woodrow’s cousin, Gypsy, and his Aunt, Beauty, and her husband, Porter. Gypsy and Woodrow are the same age, but hadn’t spent that much time together on account of there having been a disagreement of some sort between their mothers long ago. Gypsy can’t wait to ask Woodrow what he thinks happened to his mom, and neither can anyone else in their small town. Gypsy and Woodrow become very close, Woodrow is an excellent storyteller and Gypsy is beautiful and tells great jokes. They are well liked by friends and classmates. Through the course of the story things which had been kept from the both of them about their parents' pasts begins to come out, things that are hard to hear and digest. But their friendship keeps them strong as they learn some of life’s hardest lessons.

Review:

This is a beautifully written book. I loved every bit of it. The writing is poetic and lyrical, full of sweet tales. Woodrow and Gypsy, each from different backgrounds, are struggling with the same things in life, wanting to be seen for who they are not how they appear. They also are both dealing with the loss of a parent. I loved the descriptive setting, interesting characters, and odd names of the characters. I love how the story slowly unfolds as you read it. The author doesn’t sum up the book at the end, the reader is left with enough details to draw their own conclusions. The author does an excellent job of showing the thought processes that arise in tweens as they slowly begin to open their eyes to life as it occurs around them, whether they want to or not.

Genre:

Fiction

Reading Level:

Ages 9 – 12

Subjects/Themes:

Family, friendship, loss, self-identity

Series Information:

There is a sequel to this book entitled, "The Search for Belle Prater"

Awards Information:

Newbery Honor Book 1997

Character Names/Descriptions:
Gypsy Arbutus Leemaster: Woodrow's cousin; her father died when she was young, is known for her long beautiful hair
Woodrow Prater: Gypsy's cousin; Belle Prater's boy; is cross-eyed; lives with his grandparents
Belle Prater: Gypsy's aunt; Woodrow's mom; went missing; was depressed
Love Ball Dotson: Gypsy's mom; was always more beautiful that Belle; fell in love with and married Belle's boyfriend, who became Gypsy's father
Porter Dotson: Love's new husband; Gypsy's stepfather
Amos Leemaster: Gypsy's dad; killed himself while depressed after being badly burned

Annotation:
Sharing similar losses in their life, two cousins become best of friends while learning some of life's hardest lessons.

The Higher Power of Lucky


Patron, S. (2006). The Higher Power of Lucky. New York, NY: Atheneum.

Plot summary:
Lucky lives in Hard Pan, California with her French guardian, Brigitte. Lucky never knew her father, on account of he never wanted kids, and her mother was accidentally electrocuted during a storm a few years before. Hard Pan has a population of 43, the number didn't change after her mom died because Brigitte came into town to take care of Lucky. Brigitte is Lucky's father's first wife, and she was only supposed to take temporary care of Lucky while she waited for a foster home. Lucky aspires to be a scientist, she collects insects and specimens wherever she goes, carrying all the tools in her survival kit backpack, which she always has with her. Lucky works at Hard Pan's Found Object Wind Chime Museum and Visitor Center cleaning up garbage after each twelve-step anonymous meeting. It is here that she overhears the concept of having a Higher Power, which she determines she needs in her life. After seeing Brigitte's passport and suitcase out one night, Lucky jumps to the conclusion that Brigitte is heading back to France and Lucky will move on to an orphanage. This prompts Lucky to run away.

Review:
I thought this was a sweet little book, but to be honest, I am surprised that it won a Newbery Medal. Lucky is a likable character, and the other characters in the book are well developed and unique, but I felt that the story was a little predictable and similar to other stories. The little illustrations were a nice touch, especially in showing Lucky's home (constructed out of three trailers), the cholla burr, the parsley grinder, and the knots Lincoln ties. The setting was pretty interesting for the story, a tiny town in the desert where residents live in old water towers or cut up trailers. The story was enjoyably quirky, in the characters and the story of how Brigitte came to be Lucky's guardian.

Genre:
Fiction

Reading Level:
Ages 8 - 10

Subjects/Themes:
loss, self-identity, runaways

Series Information:
First book in two book series, second is entitled Lucky Breaks

Award Information:
Newbery Medal Winner 2007

Character Names/Descriptions:
Lucky Trimble: 5th grader; lives in Hard Pan; wants to be a scientist; doesn't know her dad and her mom is dead
Brigitte: Lucky's guardian; moved from France to take care of Lucky after Lucky's mom passed away; was married to Lucky's father before Lucky's mom
Lincoln: lives in Hard Pan; is in the 5th grade with Lucky; loves tying knots
Miles: in kindergarten; lives with his grandmother in Hard Pan because his mother is in jail; loves the book Are You My Mother?; likes to ask everyone for food
HMS Beagle: Lucky's dog

Annotation:
Aspiring scientist, Lucky, is always prepared for a disaster with her survival kit backpack. But when she fears her guardian, Brigitte, is going to leave her, Lucky decides to put her backpack to good use and runaway.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Professional Reading #9

Selsberg, A. (2011, March 19). Teaching to the Text Message. The New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/20/opinion/20selsberg.html?_r=1

This article is about a college professor using the inspiration of popular media and websites to get students to stay engaged in English and learn to write concisely. I definitely think the ability to write a long term paper is one that all college students should attain, but, I also think there’s something to be said for teaching English through the use of popular forms of communication and technology. It is so important to be able to relate to young students and what is of interest to them at that moment. Formulating assignments around popular websites and social networking sites like Twitter and YouTube is a great way to keep students interest, but I would hope that the professor would do so without sacrificing any English content that should be learned. I especially loved the idea of having students write a book review to post on Amazon. That’s a great way to get students to think reflectively about books they are reading and share them with others, all while using a popular website. I like the idea of keeping assignments concise to keep up with popular forms of communication such as texts and Twitter, but also so that the professor can spend more time on each student’s assignment. It is more difficult for me to write a one page paper than a five page paper. Being concise and keeping our thoughts limited and to the point is a valued skill we should all learn and linking this lesson to popular new media which young students can relate to is a wonderful way to do it.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Professional Reading #8

Zernike, K. (2007, January 7). The Preteen: Betwixt and bedeviled. The New York Times The Nation.

It seems odd to me that we still have not yet mastered the best method to educate tweens. Elementary schools, middle schools, or junior high schools, what is the best way to educate this age group? This article discusses the positive and negative issues associated with each method, for instance, leaving them in elementary school does not adequately prepare them for high school, or that middle school is less of a stepping stone to high school and more a place for lowering self-esteem. How do we make a major change like creating the concept of middle schools and moving 6th, 7th, and 8th graders from their elementary schools to middle schools without first performing a great deal of research to see that this concept is no better, or even worse than leaving tweens where they were. How do we find a proper method of education that will balance the divide tweens fall into of no longer being children, but not yet teenagers.

This article concludes that there isn't a balance, neither method will work effectively for all students. Instead of arguing over which school format is better, schools should focus on creating a support system for tweens through increased guidance counselors and making changes to curriculum that will inspire tweens. This is a tough age group, they are going through so many mental, emotional, and physical changes. I agree that less focus should be on where they are educated and more should be on how they are educated.

Professional Reading #7

Lewin, T. (2010, January 20). If Your Kids Are Awake, They're Probably Online. The New York Times.

In 2000 I was in Italy and saw a group of elementary aged children during their lunch on a field, many of which were on talking on their cell phones. I didn’t even own a cell phone at the time and couldn’t believe that these six and seven year-olds were gabbing on their phones during their lunch break. I knew that it was just a matter of time before I would see the same thing in the U.S. This article discusses the increase in usage of electronic devices by young people between the ages of eight and 18 within the last six years. The article states that young people "spend more than seven and a half hours a day" with electronic devices, such as smart phones, MP3 players, computers, and televisions. I am interested to see the breakdown of time spent on these electronic devices, for instance, how much of that time is spent on computers at school or doing homework.

The thing that bothers me most about this phenomenon is the general apathy of the parents interviewed. Parents with the attitude of what I am I supposed to do, this is how it is these days, it's everywhere, I don't have any control over it, etc. This article discusses parents who have successfully limited electronic devices in their children's lives, showing parents that they are not lacking control over this situation. My parents set limits for the telephone and television when I was a kid, my mom even initiated a week long ban on the television, which actually turned out to be a pretty fun week. My parents allowed us to have video games, but we had to buy the console ourselves. I think this was a great idea, because by the time I had saved my allowance and birthday money to buy a Nintendo, I was reluctant to part with all I had saved for so long on a video game console.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Baby-Sitter's Club: Kristy's Great Idea




Martin, A. & Telgemeier, R. (2006). The Baby-Sitter's Club: Kristy's Great Idea. New York, NY: Graphix.

Plot Summary:
After seeing her mom struggle to find a babysitter for her little brother one night, Kristy had an idea. Why not only have one number people can call to reach many baby-sitters? It was this idea that formed the Baby-sitter’s Club. Kristy invited her friends Mary Ann and Claudia to join the club and Claudia recommended a new girl in town, Stacy to join as well. They decided that they would meet once a week at Claudia’s, because she had her own phone line in her room. Each girl decided to take a position in the club: Kristy as president, Claudia as vice president, Mary Ann as secretary, and Stacy as treasurer. The girls went out on their first jobs as part of the club and made notes about their experiences in the club notebook. In the meantime, Kristy’s mom has become very close with her boyfriend, Watson. This infuriates Kristy so much that she refuses to be civil to Watson and will not babysit his kids. In an emergency situation though, Kristy is forced to babysit Watson’s kids and grows to like them and Watson very much. The girls don’t know very much about Stacy and get concerned when they catch her in a lie, but it turns out that Stacy was embarrassed to tell them about her having diabetes. The girls embrace Stacy’s secret, which makes them all closer as friends and as members of the baby-sitter’s club.

Review:
I read so many of these books as a tween. It had been awhile since I’d read this one, so I was happy to re-read it in graphic novel format. My curiosity has me tempted to re-read the actual book to see what, if any, changes were made. I think these books transfer to graphic novel format really well. Kristy’s tween dramatics are great as illustrations, Telgemeier did a wonderful job with her many facial expressions. It was also great to see all of Claudia’s interesting clothing combinations. I’ve been spoiled by all the full color graphic novels I’ve been reading lately, so I was a little disappointed to learn that this one was only in black and white. But, that was quickly forgotten as I got swept up into the story and illustrations.

Genre:
graphic novel

Reading Level:
Ages 9 - 12

Subjects/Themes:
divorce, diabetes, friendships, babysitting

Series Information:
First book in the Baby-Sitter's Club graphic series.

Character Names/Descriptions:
Kristy Thomas: seventh grader; comes up with the idea for the Baby-sitter's Club; is president of the Babysitter's Club; is upset her mom is dating Watson
Mary Anne Spier: seventh grader; secretary of the Baby-sitter's Club; lives with her father, her mother is deceased; her father is overprotective
Claudia Kishi: seventh grader; vice president of the Baby-sitter's Club; the club meets at her house; has a book smart younger sister; her grandma Mimi lives with her family; funky dresser
Stacey McGill: seventh grader, treasurer of the Baby-sitter's Club; is new to town, just moved there from New York; has diabetes
Watson: Kristy's mom's boyfriend; has two young children

Annotation:
After seeing her mom struggle to find a sitter, Kristy comes up with an idea for her friends to start a baby--sitter's club.

Professional Reading #6

Wilson, E. (2011, February 24). The Kiddie Couturiers. The New York Times.

I looked up each of the designers mentioned in this article and I wonder if it is the trend of the tween designer more than the quality of the clothes that have people flocking to buy their wares. Which then has me wondering, why are we so obsessed with these young prodigies? Is it that we feel younger while enjoying the designs of a 13 year-old or is that their creativity is raw talent, untouched by design schools and the history of design?

I think that it’s fantastic that children are encouraged to be creative and find a passion. But, I have a hard time with parents encouraging their children to step into the limelight at such a young age, especially into a career as cutthroat as fashion design. Of course children’s interests and creative desires should be nurtured, but for everyone else to see and provide input? Most of the tween designers mentioned were able to start their own business through the resources of their parents. It shows incredible devotion to put that much money into a business for your child, but with that money isn’t there a tremendous amount of pressure too? If they are interested in fashion design now, what is the issue with waiting a few years to see their craft grow and develop and invest in them then when they have more of an idea if it is truly what they want to do. I would hate to see these children burnt out on something they enjoy so young in life after being pressured into something by their parents, as we see so often with famous children.

Professional Reading #5

Staples, G.B. (2011, February 19). Makeup for the tween crowd: More cosmetics being marketed to ages 8 - 12. Some say attention on looks sends the wrong message to girls. The Atlanta Journal - Constitution.

http://www.spa-kidz.com/default.html

Most tween girls express some interest in makeup or playing dress up. When I was a tween there was makeup marketed to girls my age, but it was more costumey and manufactured by Hello Kitty or Barbie and wasn’t something girls were going to wear beyond playing dress up. The increase in money available to tweens as well as their increasing powers of persuasion over their parents has led to an actual market for tween makeup, more than just dress up. This article discusses a new makeup line coming out at Walmart that will include skin care items as well. The article also mentions a spa for kids called Spa-Kidz. Girls from ages two to fifteen can go and get manicures, pedicures, miniglams, and facials. I visited their website which boasts that their mission is to empower young girls and boost their self-esteem. I’m not sure how they’re planning on accomplishing that with “dreamsicle glitter lotion,” a “pigglywiggly bubblegum soak," and their slogan, “Girlz just want to be pampered." Perhaps it’s that women have different definitions of what is empowering. Seeing an eight year-old wearing a full face of glittery makeup with her fingers and toes painted doesn’t convey to me a confident young lady, but maybe to some it would.

Manufacturers are just capitalizing on children's desire for these products. Where are young girls getting these ideas? From friends, television, and many times their parents. Many parents think it’s fun and harmless to let their daughters wear makeup and run around the house in high heels, and why not? Many little girls love to do it and it seems harmless enough. But, when this dress up is encouraged and the girl’s behavior is reinforced with coos of how cute or pretty she is, that’s where the desire takes form, thereby creating an association of dressing up with complements. I could see where women would like to bond with their daughters and take them for mommy and me manicures, but what is the harm in waiting a few years until exposing them to societal pressure for women to be made up in public. Later in life they can make choices about this, rather than be trained from an early age that this is how they are supposed to appear. I think eight years old is far too young to begin associating self-confidence with makeup.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Woods Runner



Paulsen, G. (2010). Woods Runner. New York, NY: Scholastic, Inc.

Plot Summary:
Samuel lives in a settlement in the woods with his parents. The woods are all that Samuel has ever known and are as much his home as the cabin where his family resides. Briefly after hearing news of fighting between the settlers and the British, Samuel returns from hunting to find his parents missing and his cabin home burned down as well as those of his neighbors. Samuel, an excellent hunter, tracks his parent's captors until he is injured by a tomahawk. Samuel is nursed back to health by rebels who inform him that his parent's were taken captive by British soldiers. Samuel continues on his way gaining an eight year-old companion, named Annie, orphaned after British soldiers killed her parents. On their journey to find Samuel's parents, they meet Abner, a Scottish trader, who works to help the Patriot's cause. It is with the help of Abner and his friend Matthew that Samuel is able to locate his parents in New York and free them.

Review:
Gary Paulsen does such a great job with showing the strength, determination, and complexities of his male protagonists. Samuel is a wonderful example of the many young boys forced to grow up quickly during the Revolutionary War. Paulsen includes historical information at the beginning of each chapter detailing certain events or explanations of certain practices that took place during the Revolutionary War. These were interesting and helpful in providing background for the story. This is an excellent story that will be very interesting to young readers, which also provides a great deal of historical details.

Genre:
historical fiction

Reading Level:
Ages 9 - 12

Subjects/Themes:
Revolutionary War, self-identity, loss

Character Names/Descriptions:
Samuel Lehi Smith: 10 years-old;
Abigail Smith: Samuel's mother; captured by the British
Olin Smith: Samuel's father; captured by the British
Annie Clark: 8 year-old girl; her parents were killed by Hessians (German soldiers assisting the British); adopted by Samuel and his family
John Cooper (Coop): rebel looking to join up with the Patriots; nurses Samuel back to health after he is wounded by a tomahawk
Abner McDougal: Scottish tinker; assists the Patriots; helps Samuel find and save his parents
Matthew: friend of Abner's who helps Samuel's parents escape

Annotation:
Ten year-old Samuel is forced to grow up fast as he seeks out his parents who were captured by British soldiers.

Luna




Peters, J.A. (2004). Luna. New York, NY: Little, Brown, and Company.

Plot Summary:
Regan’s brother Liam was born a girl. Anatomically Liam was born male, but mentally and emotionally Liam has always been female. Liam dresses up each night in girl’s clothing in his sister’s bedroom, it is the only time he is truly able to be himself and act as his female self, named Luna. Regan alone, is the sole person who knows Luna. The knowledge of Luna is a burden that has kept Regan from keeping friends or becoming close with anyone other than her brother and his best friend, Aly. Regan also must be her brother’s only support. He depends on her for confidence and emotional support. Regan’s relationship with her parents has suffered as well, she cannot contain her contempt for her father who tries to make Liam into the perfect son or her mother who turns a blind eye to her family. As Liam slowly begins to transition into Luna, bringing her out during the day, Regan also begins to emerge from the role she has created for herself. Instead of spending all her time babysitting for the normal family she wishes she had, Regan begins to see Chris, a boy who accepts Regan and her brother as they are.

Review:
The moth on the cover of this book is incredibly appropriate as a symbol of the metamorphosis of Regan and Liam. Throughout the course of the book Liam and Regan both begin to emerge from the protective layers they have been hiding behind. The author does an excellent job of portraying Liam and showing his absolute need to be a girl, that there is no other option for him. What was surprising to me was that I found the complexities of Regan and Liam’s codependent relationship more interesting than Liam’s story. My stomach tensed as I read about the immense pressure Regan had put on herself by making her Liam’s protector. The truths she must hide from everyone, including her brother, in order to protect him. The struggle of not wanting the role she had taken so many years ago, but not wanting to abandon her brother; that he is solely her responsibility. The flashbacks to moments in their life where Liam’s female identity presented itself in public at a young age is an excellent way to show the gradual awareness of his being transgender from the time when he was very young. It is nice that the author added in a little romance to lighten up the book, that was appreciated.

Genre:
realistic fiction

Reading Level:
Ages 12 & up

Subjects/Themes:
transgendered, siblings, self-identity

Character Names/Descriptions:
Regan: a sophomore in high school; her brother is transgendered; isolates herself from people because of her codependent relationship with her brother; begins a relationship with Chris
Liam/Luna: Regan's transgendered brother; is very smart; has a difficult time coming out to his best friend and parnets about being transgender; relies heavily on Regan to keep his secret
Aly: Liam's best friend; is in love with Liam
Chris: classmate of Regan's whom she begins to date

Annotation:
Regan struggles between her need to protect her transgendered brother and her own desires in life.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants


Brashares, A. (2001). The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. New York, NY: Delacorte Press.

Plot Summary:
As summer approaches, best friends Tibby, Lena, Bridget, and Carmen are soon to be separated by their summer plans. As they sit around Carmen's room watching her pack they discover a pair of jeans Carmen bought at a thrift store. As each differently shaped girl tries on the jeans, they discover that they have some mystical power to look incredible on each of them. It is there that a plan forms to share the pants during the summer and create a sisterhood of the traveling pants. As each girl wears the pants she gains the confidence to act on her life and make changes. Each girl gains insight and wisdom from her summer adventure. Tibby stays behind working a summer job and befriending the wise beyond her years Bailey, who is battling leukemia. Carmen travels to spend the summer with her father, only to find out that he has a new family she was not aware of. Lena spends the summer in Greece with her sister and grandparents reluctantly falling in love with Costos. Bridget goes to soccer camp in Mexico, brazenly throwing herself at one of the coaches and crumbling once her desire has been met. Each girl encounters obstacles, tackles them and overcomes them with the help of their friendship and the traveling pants.

Review:
This is a great read, both fast and engaging. The book jumps back and forth between the summer of each girl, leaving off at exciting parts in each story, which makes it a difficult book to put down. Each character encounters new experiences during the summer which test the limits of their strength and makes them depend on themselves and their friendship with each other. The book explores some hefty subjects such as cancer, suicide, and losing one's virginity, but does so with a mix of emotions and perspectives. Despite the heavy subjects, there is also quite a bit of humor and romance that carry the book along. The range of character types among the girls will appeal to young girl readers, each identifying with a different character.

Genre:
fiction

Reading Level:
Ages: 10 - 13

Subjects/Themes:
self-identity, friendship, cancer, suicide, sex, romance

Series Information:
This is the first book of the The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series.

Character Names/Descriptions:
Tibby Rollins: 15 years-old; stays at home during the summer to work at Wallman's; befriends Bailey who helps Tibby to make a movie;
Lena Kaligaris: 15 years-old; goes to Greece for the summer with her sister to visit their grandparents; falls in love with Costos after an awkward encounter
Bridget Vreeland: 15 years-old; goes to a soccer camp in Baja Mexico for the summer; has a relationship with Eric a camp counselor; goes into a depression after losing her virginity to Eric; mother killed herself after suffering from manic depression
Carmen Lowell: 15 years-old; goes to South Carolina to visit her father for the summer only to find out that he is engaged and living with his fiance and her two teenage children
Bailey: 12 year-old girl who befriends Tibby; has leukemia
Costos: young Greek friend of Lena's grandparents; has a relationship with Lena
Eric: older counselor at Bridget's soccer camp; has sex with Bridget

Annotation:
Four best friends are separated for the summer, but kept in touch through the sharing of a pair of magical pants that give them each the confidence to overcome obstacles they each encounter.